Tag Archives: suicide

A Nudge in the Night, Bohdi Byles

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A ghost tour at a gaol, and my friend and I would be sleeping overnight in the cells. I could finally tell people I had slept in a prison.

The tour was interesting, and a little bit creepy. The tour guide had actually been a prison guard back in the day, so he was telling us the graphic stories of murders in the showers with sharpened toothbrushes, and riots in the courtyard with people having their everything broken.

When we stopped at the prison cells for us brave souls to be locked in for the night, he pointed at the cell next to the one I was sleeping in.

“Someone hanged themselves in there,” the tour guide said with a shrug. “I don’t believe in ghost stories because I still have to patrol these grounds at night, but have fun.”

The most unnerving thing was the writing on the wall.

Of all the things I’ve lost.

I miss my mind the most.

“Oh, and one last thing,” the guide said, resting against the huge cell door. “These doors are very heavy so be careful opening and closing them. I saw someone’s fingers get chopped off from the door slamming on them.”

Once he’d left, we laid down to sleep. We were going to be sleeping on air mattresses on the cell floor, no pillows, and no blankets. When lights went out, they really went out; I couldn’t see anything at all. I rolled over and curled up into a ball, my usual sleeping pose, and closed my eyes, the stories of the nights swirling through my mind.

Twenty minutes later was when it began.

Nudge, nudge.

It was like someone was pressing into the foot of the mattress, and I could feel myself rising and falling. My heart began to thump just a little bit faster, but I ignored it. But there it was again and again.

“What do you want? Just stop it!” I sat up in bed and glared at my friend, only to realise she was snoring and facing the cell wall.

When my head was back on the mattress, it started up again.

Nudge, nudge.

A gut feeling sank through my whole body, and I clenched my eyes shut. Something inside, whether it was divine guidance, intuition, or just pure anxiety, was telling me not to open my eyes or look at the foot of the bed.

Nudge, nudge.

Horrific images were flooding my mind, the most poignant being a man hanging from the ceiling in the cell next door. He was swinging back and forth like a pendulum, threatening to fall. And all I could hear was that message from the wall.

Of all the things I’ve lost.

I miss my mind the most.

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Looking at Lorikeets, Sheriden Goldie

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The street burst with colours. The liquid lipstick red of a car as it turned out of a driveway. Sun-drenched leaves tried to resist the cool breeze of autumn. Lorikeets suckled at the late-blooming blossoms. The heat clung between the concrete towers even in May.

The stream of pedestrian traffic passed under my window. They passed in ones and disconnected twos. All marching towards the station. An old lady hunched against the current persisted down the centre of the footpath. They flowed around her like a boulder in the stream.

I reached out to touch it, wondering if I was destined to be a part of that same army. Instead, I felt the cold shock of glass against my skin. The cold leeched up through my wrist. The fleshy mounds of my palm pulled taut, and the creases of my yet-unlived life stretched to faint memories. I imagined pushing outwards with all my might. Both hands pushing against the glass. What would it take? A sudden rush? A punch? Or gentle constant pressure?

I pressed my other hand into the glass, resting my forehead between my hands. I felt the pressure build in my arms. At some point would the glass crack?

Silvered spider webs would streak out from where my hands were, and I would push still. It would crinkle. Fracturing. Rupturing. Shattering. The pressure would finally release. I could almost taste the air on the other side. My tongue tingled. I swallowed. The shards of glass would shiver in the air, then they would fall. Deadly snowflakes. I imagined the shards diving around my fingers. Like silver translucent Olympians. They would slice through my skin with barely a shiver. I wouldn’t even realise at first, but the hot drip of blood would be the proof. Momentum would carry me. But, from this height, it would have to be a direct hit on the concrete. Landing on my side or legs would just mean a lot of broken bones. Shattered ribs, fractured skulls, a concussion for sure, perhaps even amnesia. Just a little more pressure, I think.

“What are you doing?” she asked. I turned. She stood in my doorway, concerned but unknowing. A patch of fog clouded the window from where I had pressed my face to it; imagining. The truth would have only confused her. I didn’t want to die, not really. I don’t think I did anyway. I certainly don’t now.

“I was looking at the lorikeets,” I said.

“Right,” she said, reassured somewhat. “When’s your bus?” she asked but really meaning why hadn’t I left for school yet.

I looked over at the clock on my bedside table. I was going to be late. I slid off the bed and found my school shoes in the jumble at the bottom of my wardrobe. I mumbled from the shelves, and mum turned away.

That day I imagined telling her the truth. Instead, I tried drawing a lorikeet in art class.

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Checking In, Kylie Needham

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This is how my sister told it to me.

‘Mum’s stuck in Immigration. They’re not letting her get on the plane.’

‘Can they stop her?’ I was tidying the kitchen after Ben and the kids had left for Saturday morning sport. I hadn’t thought of my mother in months; hadn’t seen or spoken to her in seven years. Still, my question was stupid. I knew as well as anyone else no one could stop my mother doing a thing.

‘They’re showing her articles about Nigerian love scams. Like she doesn’t know.’

‘She called you?’ I flicked on the kettle and got out a teabag. Conversations with my sister had a way of eating time.

‘No, I called her. To tell her about Nanna.’

‘What’s happened to Nanna?’ I put the phone on speaker so I could at least pack the dishwasher and feel like I was getting something done.

‘Last night she wrote letters to everyone except mum, cooked a batch of Ladies Fingers, and then swallowed a bottle of Temazepam.’

I nodded. Almost every member of my mother’s family had threatened suicide at one time or another. None had ever succeeded. Uncle Elio came close when he drank a bottle of Domestos.

‘Anyway, I was ringing mum to tell her Nanna’s on life support.’

‘What’d she say?’

‘They should turn it off.’

‘Who was dumb enough to give Nanna Temazepam?’ I asked, filling my teacup with boiling water and at the same time remembering the kids had finished all the milk. I’d have to add it to the list.

‘Some shit doctor she goes to. She told him her daughter’s run off with a black man and she can’t sleep, so he wrote her a script.’

Unfortunately for everyone, my sixty-nine year old mother had recently discovered the Internet and, with it, Facebook. There she discovered her new husband-to-be: a fifty-nine-year-old white American guy from California. Really he was a twenty-three-year-old black Nigerian guy named Richard (I had doubts about the name) who stole a photograph of a middle-aged Turkish real estate agent and used it for his profile picture.

‘How is she?’

‘Nanna? Pretty pissed off she’s still alive.’

‘No, I mean mum. Will she get on the plane?’

‘Who knows? She’s going nuts they won’t give Richard a visa and let him come here. Calling them all racists. And she’s fighting Florrie on Facebook.’

‘Who’s Florrie?’

‘Richard’s girlfriend. In Nigeria. She’s hot, looks about twenty. I’ll text you a picture.’

I thought of the officials at Immigration, laying down documents in front of my mother and showing her articles about lonely women who’d been tricked into online romances by smooth-talking scammers. Women who’d lost everything. Women who’d gone missing. Women who’d been murdered.

‘Stupid bitches,’ I could hear my mum say, pushing back her chair and standing up to catch her plane.

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Absolution, Leigh Coyle

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Mack didn’t say a word either. We just watched as she swept the meat ants away from the dead man’s body, working a perimeter of clear space around him in the red dust. A pig dog, frenzied by the smell of blood, wrenched at its chain and she raised her broom at it and shouted.

Her task was pointless and she knew it.

I didn’t know the dead man with his booted feet sticking out into the afternoon, but then, I didn’t know anyone else on that property. Even Mack I’d only met a few weeks before when we were both walking in the same direction. Mack was one of those bull-headed men who can’t think around corners. He wore black clothes in the heat and any spare bit of skin was covered in smudged tattoos, like he’d done them himself. His front teeth were cracked off right across the middles, a long time ago, if you cared to see the worn down edges of them, and he had a face that was all collapsed in on itself. Mean bugger though.

By the way Mack held himself, his body tense, the way he muttered and moaned in his sleep, how he couldn’t look me in the eye for longer than a second, I knew he’d been inside. But the good thing I’d discovered about Mack was he didn’t ask questions. I liked that much about him and, by sticking together we seemed to find more work. That’s why we were there on that property and why we’d heard the single shot which had cracked open the dawn and for a few moments stilled the day.

Mack’d said, ‘That was no 22.’

I’d said, ‘Yeah, think you’re right.’

Then we’d gone about getting ready for the day’s work, pulling on trousers, sweat-stained singlets, hats bent to the shapes of our heads. It wasn’t our business, so when we went past the house on our way to the horses, we didn’t ask questions, even though we could already see the body motionless with the woman sweeping in circles.  We just wanted to get where we were going.

And when we came back in the afternoon, salt-smeared and thirsty after driving posts into the ground all day, we still didn’t want to find out anything about it, except she yelled out to us and we stopped near the gate, me leaning on the fence and Mack shuffling his boots in the red dust. She was blotchy-faced and sweaty, reddened by the dirt so it was hard to tell what colour her hair was, or whether she’d ever once been a looker.

‘Know what this bastard did?’ she said, letting the broom drop against her thigh.

‘Nuh,’ said Mack, with all the effort of someone who didn’t want to know.

‘Shot himself,’ she said. ‘Right here.’ She glanced back to the house as if allowing it the chance to break out of its ongoing silence. ‘And I’ve spent this whole stinking day trying to keep him nice, waiting for some bloke in a suit to come and tell me he’s dead.’

‘Jeez,’ said Mack.

Mack looked at me as if I had the words he needed, but didn’t want to share them out, so on his behalf I asked, ‘Why’d he do it?’

‘Why does anyone do it?’ she said.

I looked at Mack and thought I saw something disturbing in his eyes, but he was that sort of bloke.

‘Beats me,’ I said.

The woman resumed her sweeping. ‘You’re right there.’

We started to walk off towards the sleeping shed, but her sharp voice continued.

‘We hid all the guns, you know. Every last one of ‘em. My husband put the strychnine up in the roof so he couldn’t get to it, I put all the knives in my undies drawer. Last place he’d look, we reckoned.’

We waited while she snatched a dirty hanky from her apron pocket and wiped at her eyes.

The afternoon was stretched red-tight and all I wanted to do was get to the shed, lie down on my bunk with my toes free from boots and think of nothing much. Mack looked uncomfortable with the woman’s tears and fidgeted with his belt buckle. I saw something familiar in the way her face toughened as she spoke again, a sour tinge to her voice.

‘Made no difference in the end,’ she said. ‘This morning, he just grabbed a rifle from the back of Ron Strodeor’s ute before we had time to stop him.’

She paused as she gazed at the mad-eyed dog. ‘Wish we’d get rid of this bloody useless mongrel,’ she said.

I coughed inside my throat to break the mood and gave her a little nod. ‘Well, we’ll leave you to it,’ I said, stepping closer to Mack so we could both turn and escape in one slick manoeuvre. But the stupid bugger had stopped there, unmoving, so I was forced to stay put too, with the snuffling grunts of the dog and the fading heat of the afternoon sucking up the very last drops of moisture left on earth.

‘He just grabbed the rifle,’ she said. She dropped the broom onto the ground. ‘He just cocked it, put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.’

Her face was lined by the sun and any womanly softness had been worn away by the weather and too much hard work. She looked like someone I’d known once, but I couldn’t quite remember who. She wept and her tears seemed obscene with their wetness, then she folded at the knees and hunched herself over beside where the dead man’s head was covered by a hessian sack.

‘We did everything we could,’ she sobbed into the dirt. ‘But in the end, it was impossible.’ She began to wail, a great heaving bawling which made her body quiver and I didn’t know where to look or what to do. I wanted someone to come out of the house and take the woman away, relieve her of her futile vigil, let the night press its darkness down upon her. But the place seemed deserted.

I glanced over to Mack for help and he gave me one long desperate look like he was seeking my permission to do something. Then that big tough bloke climbed over the fence into the yard where the woman knelt next to the dead man and he crouched down beside her, his huge tattooed arm covering her back, so their three bodies were butted up alongside each other in the dirt like rusty sardines.

Even then the woman continued to talk, as if her words had been caught up somewhere deep inside and were being flushed out with her tears. ‘We were the ones who told him to come. We’re the ones who promised to look after him. He just about blew his head off.’

She paused and then took in a long exhausted breath.

‘He was my brother.’

Mack’s black-haired hand was stroking down the woman’s back as he muttered to her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, just the sound of his soft voice curling out into the last flare of sunlight; he was saying more to her now than I’d heard him say in all the weeks we’d been together. The woman remained curved over, but was silent now, listening.

I was useless, worse than that ugly crazy mutt, which still thought it could bust out of its lockup. As I stood there watching Mack with the woman I realised that the expression I’d briefly seen before on the woman’s face belonged to my wife, when I’d finally told her I was leaving for good.

For one blinding moment, I let myself understand I was a million times less worthy than that thug Mack, before I grunted loudly in disgust and left them to it.

 

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